NATO Summit: Planned Well?

We recently saw large-scale project management in action, during the NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-21.  Staging that event certainly required a great deal of project management, risk assessment and contingency planning.  Many Chicagoans felt the event was not worth the hassle (although Deloitte’ economic study projected a $128.2 million impact).  While the event was a huge pain, I can’t say the project was implemented poorly.  The police invested over $1 million in riot-control equipment and spent months training.  The CPD performance was generally well-received.  I do think the police could have done a better done containing the protestors, during the event the media coverage made you feel like the protestors were everywhere.  As a safety precaution, the city installed new trashcans.  There were many street and highway closures.  That information was communicated through media outlets, a website set up by the city and the “Notify Chicago” system.  The street closures very inconvenient, but I don’t know a better alternative was available.  Business appeared to be well prepared as well.  I found it interesting that Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper was mocked for suggesting in January that businesses may need to board up windows and have employees work for home.  By May, many businesses were installing bullet-proof glass, closing offices or urging employees to dress down to avoid being targeted by protests.  Generally, the organization of the Summit itself was well-received.  As the Sun-Times said “By not failing, Emanuel and Chicago succeeded.”

Now that you’ve had time to digest the NATO Summit, what do you think?  Do you think Chicago would have been better without the event?  Was the event a success operationally?  Do you have any thoughts about specific aspects that could have been planned better?

A great deal of the proposed benefit was elevating Chicago on the world scene.  My general sense is Chicago is not viewed as world-city.  Organizers of the 2016 Olympic bid were disappointed Chicago did not resonate more with IOC members – they simply didn’t view Chicago as one of the world’s great cities.  And while many foreign journalists praised Chicago, I don’t think the awareness created by NATO will translate into tangible benefits. 

Also now that the images from protests are not fresh, I think the event was organized fairly well.—foreign-journalists-favorably-impressed–news-46.php

7 thoughts on “NATO Summit: Planned Well?

  1. This is a great post, I was just talking to a friend about the NATO summit here. I think it was great attention to bring to the city on a more international side, but I am not a fan of the bill at the end of the day. The amount of money that was spent overall is absurd and unfortunately necessary for something this large. The city did a great job and I think that helped boost the city a little more, but right now the main focus is gang related so the whole “great job keeping the city safe” comments during NATO are not really talked about anymore. It is now “X people got shot this weekend” …..

  2. I think the only tangible benefit that came out of the NATO summit was the great police work and leadership by the Chicago and State Police. There is no doubt that Chicago showed that they could be a very safe environment for large scale events such as Olympic games. However, other then that I do not see how Chicago was viewed as a City that could take on a large scale event like the Olympics. Nothing from the NATO weekend corrected Chicago’s transportation issues, labor and union issues, as well as the financial crisis facing Illinois. NATO was planned right from a security aspect, but Chicago and Illinois must now put together plans to try and correct the gang and street violence, union/labor issues, transportation issues, and the mounting debt facing Illinois.

  3. I was very impressed with the way that NATO turned out, especially considering that there were no serious injuries involved. From an operations standpoint, I think the event was a success because there was good communication between the city, the police, and the pedestrians, and in the end the most important thing is that no one got hurt. I agree with the statement that because Chicago didn’t fail, they succeeded.

  4. I do not believe that a great measure for success is “not failing.” I also think a study should have been done to find out the economic benefit derived from having the summit in Chicago versus the cost of all the CPD, security, and damage to both city and protesters. Such a study might find an imbalanced tradeoff.

  5. I personally agree with the idea that the city handeled the summit very well. I think they were well prepared and everything went by smoothly. I know everything was making a big fuss about it, but there was barely, if any, distruction to the city, and everybody was safe. I also think the NATO Summit brought a good image to the city of Chicago. It showed that Chicago is a huge businessm and political power in the US, as well as a major world class city. I think that the summit was a success and was a good idea.

  6. I think the city handled the NATO summit as well as it could but believe that it is a no win situation for a city to hold events like this. First you have to look at the cost for the city to hold this event (police cost, lost tax revenue, etc). Then you have to look at the cost to local businesses had to endure because they had to shut down for the weekend. Citizens time was lost because the had to take alternative routes because of street closures.

    What did the city gain by hosting the NATO Summit? From most reports the city controlled the protesters with minimal problems. I would argue that a city of Chicago’s stature should be able to control crowds and that this was not was gain for the city. The risk that the city took was if things got really ugly it would be an another black eye to the city.

  7. I do understand the reasoning behind why Chicago decided to host the NATO event, in an attempt to showcase our beautiful city to dignitaries around the world. I personally found it highly inconvenient since I worked downtown and commute by car, but for those involved I believe it was a success. I thought the way they kept protesters contained within a certain block radius was wise and they orchestrated it so that the actual summit was held near downtown, but right off the expressway. I’m not sure that they could have done anything “better”.

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